How to make a five minute speech

When we wanted to know how to make a speech we went to ask someone who really knows their subject. We sat down with Chris Brown, the Town Crier of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead and asked him for his tips on making a five minute speech.

How to start a five minute speech

“Start by saying hello to your audience” was Chris’ first tip. Smile and let them know two things; your name and the name of your talk. That is important so that people who have accidentally walked into the wrong room can fix their mistake. Don’t take anybody leaving at this point as a personal insult; they are just in the wrong place.”

“Oh and another thing; for pity sake speak up” says Chris. “When we are nervous we talk quietly. If nobody can hear you it is essentially pointless to be up there in the first place. The people at the back of the room will always appreciate a bit more volume. “

Chris is definitely the man to listen to regarding volume. Although softly spoken in normal conversation, since 2012 he has been loudly delivering proclamations to the general public on the streets of Royal Windsor in his role as the official ‘Town Crier‘ for the famous royal destination. The tricks he has learned in his role are well worth listening to

“That is half a minute gone, so now you need to tell them what you are going to talk about for the next four minutes and 30 seconds. The title should be a clue, but now it is time to really ‘sell it’. There are many ways of doing this and a quick humorous anecdote is great, but not essential. At the very least, loudly and slowly explain in one sentence what your speech is all about.”

The start of a five minute speech is all about putting the audience at ease. You could repeat the description or the title for extra emphasis. At least then your audience will remember what you were supposed to be talking about, even if you don’t. Injecting a little comedy early on in your speech really does put everybody at their ease, so a second funny (or knowingly cheesy) line early on is a great help, but is by no means essential.

Speak more slowly

The average speaking speed is 150 words per minute. Slow it down by 10% and you have 135 per minute. That means your speech only needs to be 675 words long, which is practically nothing. In fact your intro probably took the 75 words already so you have only 600 words left.

Speech content and signposting

Now layout three things that you are going to be telling them during this speech.

This will:

  1. Clarify things with signposting
  2. Keep you on topic
  3. Hold your audiences attention.

Now let them know you are about to jump into point one. By ‘signposting’  where you have got to in your speech (by slowing down further, speaking a little louder and pausing for emphasis) the note takers will be clear on what you think is most relevant. At the end of point one, signpost that you are now moving on to point two.

Stay on topic

“With only five minutes you have to be careful to stay on point. Wild tangents are fun but there just isn’t time. In fact, you will be surprised and perhaps horrified by just how little time you have. 3 ideas in 600 words means you only get a maximum of 200 words per topic.”

When Chris won the 2013 National Championship for Town Criers in Hastings he didn’t even have the luxury of 600 words. Competition rules mean that he had to deliver his message in 125 words or less. “Sorry it is so long, I didn’t have time to write a shorter one” is an old joke among speechwriters but there is a truth behind it. Picking the right words can be somewhat of an art. “Once you have written a few paragraphs go back and check whether there isn’t a better way of saying the same thing in fewer words” is Chris’ recommendation.

Visual Aids

Slides, tweet decks, powerpoints and so on can really help if you need to get more information across. They say a picture paints a thousand words and while that might be a little over the top, a well chosen graphic certainly can help explain an idea very forcefully.  

If you are using slides then remember not to fill them with loads of text. A graph or photo and one or two words is actually going to help put your point across far better than displaying the entire text of War and Peace on the screen.

Getting to the point is how you keep your audience engaged with the subject. Don’t try and tell them everything they need to know. If they go home remembering just one or two points you can count yourself as a better public speaker than most people are.

With regard to presentation style Chris had three points that he felt were the most important pieces of advice to give any speech maker  who has been asked to give a five minute speech. These were:

  • Smile
  • Speak more slowly
  • Speak loudly.

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About the author

Loves to learn new things and make stuff...properly. Born and living in the Thames Valley west of London, England. I have an office job during the day, but evenings and weekends are all about making.